Sandro Botticelli La nascita di Venere
    Botticelli’s Birth of Venus


    In this special halloween post, I’m excited to introduce you to a concept for a long duration manned mission to Venus, using blimps to hover in the atmosphere.

    First off, there should be a more gender neutral way to say “manned mission” shouldn’t there be? Especially to Venus, as Venus is the only planet named after a female figure.  Human-mission? Crewed-mission?  It might take a while for a new term to become colloquial, but until that happens we might have already sent humans to Venus.

         Now wait just a second…isn’t Venus super duper hot and inhospitable? 

    Yes, in fact the temperature at the Venera_13_landerVenusian surface is over 800º F, with sulfuric acid rain, and is about 90 times the atmospheric pressure at the surface of Earth. Even with several spacecraft visits to our sister planet, the longest surviving spacecraft (Venera 13) lasted just 127 minutes on the surface before it became unresponsive (most probes only lasted 30-50 min). The former Soviet Union is the only country to successfully land functioning crafts on the surface of Venus (although the US had one atmospheric probe that happened to transmit information from the surface).  Special thanks to blog reader Richard K. for pointing this cool fact out!

    Venera 13 landing site on the surface of Venus

    I was fortunate to catch a lecture given by two NASA Langley Scientists (Dr. Dale Arney + Chris Jones), otherwise I would have still thought Venus was a hot, hot, mess and definitely not suitable for human habitation. However, they have convinced me otherwise with their mission concept, a five phase plan to eventually have a permanent floating settlement in the clouds of Venus, called HAVOC (High Altitude Venus Operations Concept):

    Phase 1 – Send a robotic mission to 50 km above the surface to prove the technology needed to support humans.

    Source: NASA Langley

    Phase 2- Send a crew to orbit Venus for 30 days in a habitat

    Phase 3 – Send a 30 day crew to the live atmosphere 50 km above the surface

    Source: NASA Langley

    Phase 4-  Send a one year crew to live in the atmosphere

    Phase 5 – Establish a permanent crew to inhabit floating structures on Venus.

    Source: NASA Langley
    Radar image of a volcano on Venus

    In terms of human missions to other places in the Solar System, Venus is not an obvious choice and definitely takes the backseat to Mars. Initially, I thought this was a cockamamie idea, but after hearing their reasoning, design implementations, as well as laboratory tests, it felt plausible. I mean why not? At 50 km above the Venusian surface, temperatures are still hot at 75ºC (167ºF), however the atmospheric pressure at 50 km is only 1.05 atmospheres, very similar to the pressure at the surface of Earth. Gravity at that altitude is 8.86 m/s2 , and with it’s short 100-day transit time, it seemed slightly more favorable for habitation as compared to Mars’ s 3.71 m/s2 gravity and ~8 month transit time.

    What’s the fun in floating around in clouds in a blimp? 

    True, you wont be able to walk around on Venus, but our sister planet could be a more design friendly scenario than sending humans to Mars. You wouldn’t have to deal with Martian problems such as iron rich soils (potentially harmful to humans if in contact with skin and not ideal for growing food), little gravity (causing bone density issues, among other things), planetary protection violations, and building artificial habitats with limited supplies. Not to mention the recent MIT feasibility study suggesting that the proposed Mars One (a one-way mission to Mars) is not possible, according to their plans. Do I dare say that Mars isn’t looking so hot, and Venus is the new cool?

    Source: https://imgonnastudytherain.wordpress.com/tag/venus/
    Rocky planets to scale

    What do you think? Leave us your opinion in the comment section below and please check out the awesome concept video for HAVOC!


    • Four Chan² / Side B

      People living on Venus for long periods and coming back to Earth wont have a problem with our gravity for sure. They should be able to jump higher and everything.

      • Someone OnTheInternet

        Venus has about the same gravity as Earth. Slightly less, actually. Venus is about the same density as Earth, but slightly smaller.

        • Four Chan² / Side B

          Didn’t the article say the gravity was 9x that of Earth though?

      • Wayne

        Wouldn’t that be our “Sibling” planet instead of “Sister” planet? I think the idea is absolutely terrific but I’d be more worried about the closer proximity to the sun (Which is a problem just about everywhere else – Including Earth) It should provide a wonderful platform for solar studies as well, though.

        • Julia DeMarines

          I’ve always heard Venus referred to “our sister planet” colloquially probably because Venus is named after the Roman Goddess of love and beauty, whereas the other planets are associated with masculine gods. But sibling would work just fine! … and is gender neutral 🙂

        • S. Domagal-Goldman

          The “tagline” used in the community to describe the biggest question for Venus is:
          “Why isn’t Earth’s sister her twin?”

          I think that’s a great way to phrase it, personally.

    • Richard Keen

      “The former Soviet Union is the only country to successfully land functioning crafts on the surface of Venus” is incorrect. One of the US Pioneer Venus multiprobes transmitted data from the Venusian surface for an hour after landing. I watched the launch from Cape Canaveral in 1978, and was quite happy that something from that spectacular night launch found its way to a very different land.

      • RalphZiggy

        Didn’t “land”, it “impacted” and happened to still work.

        • Kevin

          But they sent back Photos of the surface right?

          • bob0368


          • Julia DeMarines

            Yes, there are photos from the surface of Venus. There is one in the blog post and here is another great one http://www.practicalspace.com/venus/surface-of-venus-venera-14.php

      • Julia DeMarines

        Very cool, I did not know that. Thanks for sharing! We were always taught that the former Soviet Union were the only ones to successfully land on the surface of Venus, where as this one just happened to work upon impact. But, I will edit the post with this information. Thanks!

      • Julia DeMarines

        Just gave you a shout out in the post! Thanks Richard!

    • Kevin

      I think we should go too Mars before we Explore the Atmosphere of Venus. Mars is like a dream.. Largest mountain in Solar System, and Largest Canyon. I’d love there too be a Huge city there. Terraformed or something.

      • Julia DeMarines

        That would be cool, wouldn’t it?

    • SmartDoctor

      And once they get there, then what? Do macrame? Knit? Polish their nails? Skype phone messages to each other? Point radar to the surface? And all of this requires a few trillion dollars and a crew of female astropersons/(astropeople?) because_________ ?

      • Julia DeMarines

        Why are you assuming it will be an all female crew? I imagine the development team has several ideas to conduct important science research. The ones they mentioned during the talk included dropping probe to analyze the atmosphere and surface. Wouldn’t you want to fly through the atmosphere of another world? If human missions to Venus proves to be easier than human missions to Mars, I think it would still be awesome to check out another celestial object if given the chance. What do you think?

    • Sven Mills

      Whatever happened to the suggestion of seeding the upper atmosphere/clouds with micro-fauna like algae to start converting CO2?
      A crazy idea, perhaps but seemed to have some merit back in the day.

    • John W

      I’d rather fly a hydrogen balloon over an active volcano

      PS – this webpage doesn’t format very well on IE11

      PPS – the male/female debate is important, but hardly relevant !!

    • Pieter Pieters

      Venus is Terra-formable. Basic chemistry/physics.
      Acid+ alkaline = ?
      Sunlight + sunshade = ?
      CO2 is heavier than O2?
      what does blue green alga do to CO2?
      easy Maths!
      am I wrong?

    • Rhubarb_Runner

      What about the big issue with a Mars mission: radiation shielding? The radiation from a two year Mars trip would severely affect the traveller’s IQs; the shorter 100-day transit to Venus would definitely be an improvement, but would Venus provide the necessary protection from damaging radiation once there?

    • LariAnn

      I love the idea of a crewed mission to Venus, even if to float in the atmosphere. However, I wonder about how the crewmembers would get back to Earth. Would they have the capability to generate enough thrust at 50 km high to escape the gravitational pull of Venus and return to Earth?

      On a related note, I’d love to see one (or more) of the world’s billionaires choose to finance a major space exploration mission. Using the frugal approach that India did with their MOM, some very interesting missions could be funded and initiated quickly. IMHO, we need much more of the pioneering, adventurous spirit that drove folks from Europe to come to the “new world” even at risk of losing their lives. If I were a billionaire, I’d be talking with NASA and SpaceX already about funding missions.

    • Paul Patton

      I can think of all sorts of useful science that a geologist or astrobiologist might do on the surface of Mars that would be hard for a robot to do. On the other hand, I have trouble imagining what kind of science that an airship with a human crew could do floating around in the clouds of Venus that a robotic airship couldn’t do just as well.